Digital Technologies Challenged the Broadcast Model

Media broadcasting started to be recognized in the late nineteenth century as a powerful means to change values and behaviors. After the Second World War, technologies began to be used by people massively, and digital technology started to characterize media broadcasting differently, creating challenges to governments to regulate it. Many harmful and unacceptable information began to appear in public, primarily through the internet, which changed several aspects of how specialists theorize media.

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By the late nineteenth century, the broadcasting term started to describe the informational distribution, referring to the agricultural act of scattering seeds over a wide area (Merrin, 2014: 62). Accordingly, media broadcasting was defined as technological means of producing and distributing information such as news, awareness, or entertainment to a broad audience (Chandler and Munday, 2011:257). This combination of production, distribution, and consumption defines the broadcast model without linking to a specific technology (Merrin, 2014: 61).

In the 1920s, governments and media specialists noticed the power of the media to influence the mass audience’s opinions and behaviors (Rudin, 2011: 12). Additionally, Since the print revolution, the broadcast model in the most popular communication forms such as cinema, newspapers, radio, or television was based on one broadcaster reaching many audience members, a one-to-many form of communication (Murphy, MSPHyg, and MPIA, 2012: 249). Accordingly, governments took control of broadcasting, restricting and controlling the industry. This legal theory is known as the Scarcity Rationale. It is an allocating system that regulates, limits, and defines media broadcasting to avoid unauthorized operations, interfaces, and other misconducts (Berresford, 2005: 6).

Noam Chomsky – The 5 Filters of the Mass Media Machine

In 1988, Naom Chomsky and Edward Herman described the broadcast model as a propaganda model. They outlined it from the perspective of the political economy of communication to explain the performance of news production. They meant by propaganda that most news contents are framed by the restrictions of members of the upper classes who enjoy a privileged status in power relations, who hold financial, economic power, political state power, and military power, reflecting the cultural and political effects of the First and Second World Wars and the Cold War, the peak of the industrial revolution, and the dominance of the one-to-many communication forms, producing and broadcasting messages for public consumption (Pedro, 2011; Rampton, 2007).


Throughout history, fundamental revolutions have changed human life and global society, moving from an agricultural to an industrial to a digital information revolution, looking for new developments and advantages for improving everyday life (Johnson, 2009). The digital revolution has been defined as transitioning from a world familiar with analog media to a world dominated by digital media (Feldman, 2003: 1). Analog media has developed as part of the Industrial Revolution to replace human labor with machines (Dewdney and Ride, 2013: 224). Then it has been digitized mathematically, depending on a binary number system that holds only two values, zero and one, off and on. Whether a text, image, or sound, all digital files are mathematical sets of computerized codes to replace machines (Horst and Miller, 2013: 5; Dewdney and Ride, 2013:224).

In 1990, The entire societal communication structure transformed after the development of computing. The take-off of computer networking paved the way for the digitalization of media. Although all forms of media broadcasting still exist, their environment and communication structure changed rapidly, defined by a fundamental transformation in media technology and a new mode of communication, reception, and use (Merrin, 2014:67). Digital communications also brought significant changes and characteristics to the informational economy in which most of the production wealth became through buying and selling information (Chandler and Munday, 2011:209 – 211; Roosli, 2014:314).

With the new digital technologies, there are multiple audiences, interests and information channels that allow people to receive information differently instead of a single mass audience consuming the same broadcast information (Rampton, 2007 (website)). In a world of narrowcasting, programs are targeting specific small groups and individuals who are looking for specific programs rather than just accepting what already has been broadcasted. The reproduction of television and radio channels via cable and satellite, in addition to the growth of the internet, has intended to split audiences or make them smaller (Whiteley, 2011:111).

For example, the case of Palestine has been presented differently in both the Palestinian media and the Israeli media. Both talk about the same people, places, events, and actions, reflecting different political perceptions. Similarly, in Ukraine, in the elections of 2004, there was a split in supporting Victor Yushchenko and Victor Yanukovych. Each one of the candidates had his different media production, which led the population to refuse the election results, forcing the election committee to rerun it. Both examples showed how media could create different perceptions of facts (Fairweather, 2005).

Digital technologies have allowed users to communicate instantaneously and access vast information stores in a world where resources are scarce. It has presented a new communication form different than the previous one-to-one forms of communication, such as the telephone and the one-to-many forms of communication. Digital technologies present a many-to-many environment (Pfister, 2011). The internet invention merged telecommunication, media, and Information technologies, shifting the media power, lowering the production and distribution cost, and making it reachable publicly and individually (tambini, 2001:14-15).

The internet has put the power into the hands of anyone able to offer a personal computer. It has been the largest-scale experiment in freedom of speech that the world has ever seen. During the last two decades, the cost of production and distribution has decreased, allowing individuals to publish texts, images, videos, or audio anytime and anywhere around the world. Accordingly, the control over media production and consumption has been misplaced radically. Many unauthorised and harmful data became available, unregulated, and without censorship (Hamilton, 1996; Humphreys, 1999). For example, in 2010, a survey by Psychologies magazine in Britain found that one-third of fourteen-year-olds had first seen sexual images online when they were ten or younger (Bindel, 2010). According to Rob Wainwright, the Director of Europol, terrorists and criminal organisations are scaling up their activities by using social media and the Dark Web as recruitment instruments, not only as a communication tool (McCauley, 2016).

Obviously, many traditional one-to-many forms of communication are demolishing. According to Netflix’s CEO Reed Hastings,

The age of Broadcast television will probably last until 2030

Tencer, 2014

Netflix, a streaming broadcaster, has created a revolution in 2013 after releasing a series and political drama, House of cards, believing that consumers became ready for a new form of broadcasting, a non-linear model of broadcasting to replace the linear one, leading broadcasters to be innovative, and following the new consumption current. Satellite and television networks realized that people spend time on their phones and tablets more than on televisions. They realized that they had to develop streaming players and applications, including their content, or they would lose them (Butlers, 2016; Tencer, 2014).

In October 2014, Colombia Broadcasting System (CBS) launched the first subscription-based service. Likewise, in April 2015, the premium cable and satellite network Home Box Office (HBO) launched streaming service. Even FX developed a website and a mobile application based on the television show Simpsons World as an on-demand video service. On the other hand, live events, which have been strengthening the television broadcast model, in particular, live sports events, started to be challenged by digital media platforms developing live broadcast services, such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube (Butlers, 2016; Baring, 2016).

Media networks realised that they could not satisfy the new audience’s desire which is turning away from watching events on television. For example, the Australian Seven Network held the Olympics’ media rights until 2020. the viewership of the 2016 Rio Olympics Games on television was lower than the previous one in London in 2012, reducing revenues and threatening the Olympics funding. It is reported that the viewership in the United States of the Rio’s Opening Ceremony had decreased by 35% compared with London’s (Joseph, 2016; Scott, 2016).

In conclusion, the broadcast model is the relation between production, distribution, and consumption. Previously, all traditional media platforms such as newspapers, cinema, radio, and television were controlled, regulated, and manipulated to ensure that no one was harmed. However, the new digital media allowed everyone to produce and distribute, challenging the traditional forms of communication. Accordingly, many unsafe, harmful, and misplaced materials became available and difficult to be controlled, such as fake news, pornography, and criminal operations. Currently, most broadcasters have started to change their strategies according to the user’s interests by developing digital platforms to carry their materials. Otherwise, they will lose their audience and their money. It is obvious that the traditional media is becoming undesirable. Media networks and broadcasters must keep pace with the development and the new media streams to have a chance with the coming revolution.


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